Christmas or Garbage
Have you seen the ‘tiny house concept’ on your Facebook feed? Little spaces with all the essentials to make it home but no excess square footage. These little abodes remind me of the campers that used to fit on the back of a pick up truck. They are complete with the tiny requirements of a kitchen: a small sink and a 2 burner stove. The table becomes a bed. A mattress rests above the roof of the cab of the pick up for more sleeping. Home on wheels.
It is a step up from the log cabin where one room serves as the furnace and cooking center (the fireplace); the table becomes the entertainment center and the office and the classroom. The bed is the only place to lie down. A trundle pulls out for any children to sleep on. You get the picture.
Now contemplate the home in which you live. It is probably larger than the 500 square foot tiny house. It likely offers more conveniences and certainly more space for living, storing, sleeping, bathing, washing, cleaning than either of the above mentioned options.
Post WWII, our productive economy made goods and services available to us. Women had entered the work force in large numbers and cash was available for more than essential living. Now, luxury could be bought.
Appliances saved time and energy. Plastic made household goods and toys cheap and easily acquired. And, according to a recent Time article, “…we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumptions…We need to have people eat, drink, dress, ride, live with ever more complicated and, therefore, constantly more expensive consumption.”
Most of us aren’t old enough to remember those days. But we understand the concept of more and more and newer and better. Some of our jobs revolve around producing, selling, insuring those items. About 30 years ago, American consumption began using half the annual expenditure to NONNECESSITIES. The advent of credit, big box stores, discount stores decreased prices and profits. This changed our community.
The influx of online shopping and almost immediate availability expanded our view of the market place. Two-day shipping; free shipping and the item could be ours with the click of a mouse and not a retreat from the chair. We no longer have to visit several stores to find the item we want, we just visit several sites to find the desired find and poof, with the wave of the fairy godmother’s wand (the click of that mouse) it can be found at our doorstep in days. Maybe if UPS uses drones, we can decrease the time from days to hours.
And, why? Because we can. Goods are cheap. We are able to buy without a moment’s hesitation; without interruption; without a monitor on whether it is essential to life. We are not spending half our income on food and the other half on taxes as some do. Even if we are struggling to get that food on the table or clothe our children, chances are they are better fed and clothed than many in the world.
Unfortunately, goods have sometimes replaced relationship. We buy to become happy. We buy to make ourselves look good. We buy to keep up with the neighbor or the other kids in school. We buy so we don’t seem to be without. Yet, the thrill of the purchase or the sale or the deal doesn’t last forever and soon, there is a need for the thrill of the purchase again.
How do we know this is true? Look at the businesses that have come into existence because of our consumerism: storage units; Got Junk?; professional cleaners and organizers. Even thrift stores thrive because of our consumerism. So, what is the clue for combatting consumerism for the sake of purchasing power?
How often do we keep things because ‘it belonged to [some relative with whom we have a fond memory]’ or ‘my son would be devastated if I got rid of the gift he gave me.’? I have a pink painted rock that says ‘MOM’ in blue. Turned upside down, it says ‘WOW’. One of my girls made it for me. I don’t know why I keep it. Maybe I think she will miss it if I give it away. What a lie. She probably doesn’t remember making it. But, somehow, it floods me with the emotion of love from her diligent efforts to create the perfect gift for her mother.
We tease my husband about the ‘crepe paper from the 8thgrade dance’. It’s true. It is in one of the boxes of archives stored in the closet no one can reach. He thinks it might be a wonderful remembrance but we wonder by whom.
David has a friend who declared great liberty after he and his wife purged through every drawer, cupboard, closet, and storage cranny, eliminating duplicates, removing excess, and cleaning out space from the unnecessary.
We are often amazed at our home. Built in 1920, it was originally a one bedroom bungalow. The bedroom might have held a single bed, shoved against a wall. When we moved into the house, my 8 month pregnant belly wouldn’t tuck under the lavatory of the original bathroom when I was seated on the throne. Sitting side saddle was equally as difficult because my short legs were pressed against the bathtub. This home might be the expansion of ‘the tiny house’. It was built with every convenience of the time but it was not large. And, why should it be? The homemaker might have had 3 dresses and 2 aprons. The father may have had two sets of work clothes and one church outfit. They probably had little need for much stuff or couldn’t afford it if they needed it. And our home was huge compared to log cabins where the one room served as kitchen, dining room, living room, and bedroom.
Today, we live in mansions. Seriously. Even my home, which has had some additions and enclosures to enlarge bedrooms, is a mansion by the standards of many in the world outside America. There seems to be a principle of expansion: we fill the space we have and then get a bigger space.
What if we each took one room or one closet, removed everything, returned only the few things we NEED or even USE and recycled the rest? It could be donated to one of many groups or organizations. It could be put on a garage sale to raise money for a missionary family. It could be reused in a new way. What if we spent fifteen minutes sorting out a drawer and removing the extraneous tools or utensils that are duplicates? What if we made space that allowed us to breathe and move without clutter in our midst?
So during this season, as we anticipate gift giving, perhaps instead of more ‘stuff’ for our homes, we can make memories. We can cancel activities for a night and have dinner by candle light; we can skate at the ice rink; we can cut and decorate a Christmas tree; we can be intentional about being with family and making positive memories rather than adding to our already crowded households. Take a picture and file it in a special place so the memory lasts but takes up less space. Make the season count with the folks who matter.
Though the wish lists have been made for this season; some shopping started; occasional wrapping concluded; Amazon sites bookmarked, ready to decide on which gifts to ‘arrive in 48 hours’, consider taking some time this year to plan memories. As the many gifts are being relocated from under the tree to the toy room or bedroom closet, remove as many as you store. It will be good for your mental health!